A few pregame notes from Toronto:
• Nathan Eovaldi expected to play catch today, but that plan was scrapped based on his most recent medical evaluation. Meredith Marakovits reports that the Yankees are hoping Eovaldi can start a throwing program in a few days after another checkup. As it is, it seems unlikely the Yankees will get Eovaldi back in any capacity before the postseason. If he doesn’t pitch before the playoffs, how much will they trust him?
• Also from Meredith, the Yankees say Masahiro Tanaka is going through normal workouts in New York and is expected to make his next start. Apparently the Yankees are leaving open the possibility of Tanaka pitching even before his next turn, which would make sense in an effort to line him up for two more regular-season starts plus a possible wild card game.
• Lefties used to have no shot against David Price, but he had mild reverse splits last season, and he has more significant reverse splits this year. Not that lefties are crushing him — they’re hitting .268/.288/.369 — but they’ve fared better across the board than right handers. And tonight, Price will face just three righties. Steering away from his usual right-handed platoon players, Joe Girardi is using a lineup with six lefties, two switch hitters and one right-handed bat. From Greg Bird through Brett Gardner, Price will face five straight lefties.
• Chris Young had a horrible August, but he’s back to hitting .333/.421/.400 against lefties in the month of September. It’s rare that he gets a day off against a left-handed starter, but he’s had no success against Price. Young is a career .071/.133/.071 in 14 career at-bats against Price. That slash line includes one hit, one walk and five strikeouts. The three regular outfielders each have better numbers in larger sample sizes.
• Girardi started Dustin Ackley at second base despite the fact Brendan Ryan has actually had some past success against Price. Ryan’s a career .286/.286/.429 hitter in 14 at-bats against the Blue Jays ace. Ackley has hit .222/.300/.333 in nine at-bats against him.
• In his second turn back in the rotation, Adam Warren is cleared for 80-85 pitches.
• Blue Jays going with their standard non-Tulo lineup with Ryan Goins at shortstop and Cliff Pennington at second base.
Associated Press photo
After scoring 21 runs for an improbable blowout victory, it seemed the onle thing all the Yankees wanted to talk about was the relatively unknown guy on the mound.
“It was amazing,” Chris Young said. “Diego is the guy tonight, though. To be able to come into the situation he came into, I don’t know how long he was in the game, but whatever it was, it was shutout pitching. I didn’t realize how nasty he was, so it’s nice to see that we have that in our arsenal as well.”
Diego Moreno. Venezuelan right-handers. Twenty-eight years old. Nine years in professional baseball. Zero big league innings before this season. Five career minor league starts since 2009. Acquired in the A.J. Burnett salary dump three years ago.
Called up this morning, Moreno pitched 5.1 hitless innings of game-saving relief. He allowed one base runner, kept the Rangers from rediscovering their momentum, and saved the Yankees bullpen from what could have been a crushing situation. Adam Warren, who pitched immediately after him, said he had no idea how good Moreno’s stuff was this good.
According to Brooks Baseball, Moreno’s fastball averaged nearly 95 mph and topped out at 98. He also showed a power changeup and threw his slider for strikes. He wasn’t just eating innings. He was legitimately good.
“First, I was super happy about the opportunity given to me,” Moreno said through a translator. “Just to be able to be part of the win today, and they called me to be in the bullpen today, to help out, and I was happy that I could contribute to the win.
By this point, we all know how this works. There’s a solid chance Moreno will be optioned tomorrow to add a fresh arm (could be two new arms if Chris Capuano is designated for assignment). It’s just the nature of the business. Happened to Warren after a long relief appearance a few years ago. Happened to Chasen Shreve after he ate a bunch of innings earlier this season.
But regardless of what happens tomorrow, Moreno has left an impression. Twenty four hours ago, I wouldn’t have been stunned to see him DFA to open a roster spot for someone else, but this outing was impressive. As one Yankees player said: “No one in here will forget it.”
“Huge performance,” Joe Girardi said. “… The strikes he threw. Velocity. His changeup was outstanding. His slider was outstanding. He was ahead in the count, and he was able to expand. I think he had one walk, and it was the only base runner they had. He just attacked the zone. He went 5.1, and I think he only threw about 70 pitches. That’s aggressive.”
The Yankees were in a bad spot from the very beginning, but the offense exploded, and Moreno made an impression.
“I was thinking about it as soon as the (bullpen) phone rang,” he said. “I looked over and knew my number was going to get called.”
• Girardi said the Yankees had not made any moves after the game. More specifically, he said the Yankees hadn’t made any moves “yet.” It would be surprising to see the Yankees not add at least one fresh pitcher tomorrow, maybe two.
• After walking five, getting just two outs, and putting the Yankees in a massive hole, is Capuano worried about his roster spot? “I try not to worry about that stuff,” he said. “That’s not my area. They’re going to try to do what they can to make the team better. As a player, you do the best you can, and you can live with that. For me, I’m just focused on not getting down, bouncing back, and being resilient like I’ve done throughout my career.”
• I don’t think anyone claims Capuano is a standout pitcher, but one thing to notice about tonight’s game: He couldn’t throw strikes. Capuano might not have overwhelming stuff, but he’s generally in the zone. He’d pitched just 4.1 innings in the past month, and rust seemed to be a significant factor in what happened tonight. He wasn’t hit hard, just couldn’t get the ball over the plate. “I have to be spot on with my pitches,” he said. “And tonight, I didn’t have it.”
• Adam Warren pitched three hitless innings of relief, which means he actually got a save tonight. That’s his first save of the year. The Yankees didn’t allow a hit after Shin-Soo Choo’s double in the first inning.
• According to the Rangers, Moreno is the first Major League pitcher with a relief win on 5.1-or-more hitless innings since the Rangers’ John Barfield in 1990.
• According to Elias, the Rangers are the second team in modern history (since 1900) to have two pitchers allow seven or more runs while getting three or fewer outs (both Martin Perez and Wandy Rodriguez did that tonight).
• With a grand slam and two doubles, Young finished the game with five RBI. “It didn’t suck,” Young said. “It felt good to be in that situation. Credit the rest of the guys; I had runners on base all night tonight. That’s the reality of it. You have runners on base all the time and you get hits every now and then, you’re rewarded for it. Kudos to the rest of the guys for being on base so much.”
• Brendan Ryan managed two doubles in the second inning. On the first one, second baseman Rougned Odor broke toward second and the ball got past him the other way. Could have been a double play, instead it was a double. “I don’t want to speak on his behalf,” Ryan said. “But I have been crossed up where I’ve been anticipating one way and the hitter does technically what he’s not supposed to do on the pitch. Definitely, I’ll take it. I was fooled on it, but I still got the barrel to it.”
• Mark Teixeira was the only Yankees starter without a hit. He was hit by a pitch, but that wasn’t a problem. Girardi said he pulled Teixeira in the sixth inning just because the game was so lopsided. He wanted to give Teixeira a break.
• Rangers utility man Adam Rosales made his second pitching appearance of the season and gave up a home run to Brett Gardner (catcher Brian McCann immediately gave Gardner a hard time about it in the dugout). It was Gardner’s sixth time on base in the game, and it wasn’t entirely without merit. According to the TV broadcast, Rosales was actually getting his fastball up to 93 mph.
• The Yankees did not take batting practice today, and they won’t take BP tomorrow either. “I had a plan when we came in here because of the weather and we’re in a long stretch, that we’d probably take BP the first day and maybe not take it after that,” Girardi said. “Just here (in Texas) because of the long stretch and our guys seemed to respond pretty well.”
• Final word goes to Young, who was asked what it was like to score 21 unanswered runs: “That was sick. (Moreno) was the player tonight. He kept us in the dugout; we were never on defense too long. Stay fresh, stay within the rhythm of the game and continue to produce runs throughout the rest of the game. It was amazing.”
Associated Press photos
Even as he plays almost every day and provides one of the most consistent bats in baseball, Alex Rodriguez talks a lot these days about the value of taking some time off. A four-day All-Star break? There’s value in that. A few games off in National League parks? Keeps him fresh. Even a year long suspension, Rodriguez says, might have had its benefits.
“I don’t know if I needed (the All-Star break),” Rodriguez said after tonight’s game-winning homer. “I felt good coming off Boston, was swinging pretty well, but the rest has been good for me. It was very beneficial when I was serving my suspension. Maybe the four days (helped). So far so good.”
Playing for the first time since Sunday’s win at Fenway, the Yankees were sharp tonight. Masahiro Tanaka made a couple of mistakes to Kyle Seager, but otherwise delivered a strong start. Chris Young delivered two more extra-base hits against a lefty. The infield defense was good and steady.
Then there was Rodriguez, who went hitless in his first two at-bats before singling and scoring the tying run in the fifth inning, then hitting his 19th home run of the season in the seventh. Rodriguez has had a go-ahead RBI in each of the Yankees’ past four games.
“I think Joe (Girardi) deserves a lot of credit,” Rodriguez said. “He’s put me in a situation where I can help the team win. I think the DH job for me has been good because I’m able to prepare differently, and I feel comfortable. … It’s been huge for me, I’m really enjoying it, working hard at it. Every day, I’m just trying to continue with my routine.”
The decision to keep Rodriguez confined to designated hitter — especially in interleague games on the road — has been the source of much discussion, but Girardi seems sold on the idea that keeping Rodriguez out of the field is keeping his body fresh, and Rodriguez hasn’t argued. In fact, he’s gone out of his way multiple times this season to talk about the positive impact of the DH job and the way extra rest has helped him.
“I’ll have to pick some sporadic days off (for Rodriguez), especially as we get into some of the longer stretches,” Girardi said. “And I’ll do that. He held up great the first half, and I expect him to hold up well the second half and be productive.”
Rodriguez didn’t look rusty tonight. He looked rested and ready to push the Yankees division lead to 4.5 games.
“A guy like Al,” Chris Young said, “who’s been around the block a few times, been in every situation, been in the World Series, had a lot of success in a lot of different situations, where you’re able to slow the game down, (is able to) keep things in perspective and come through in big situations.”
• Carlos Beltran went 0-for-2 with a walk in tonight’s rehab game. Even if he catches a flight back to New York tomorrow morning, it’s unlikely he’ll be activated for Saturday’s game. Looks like he’ll return Sunday at the earliest. “I heard that he came out OK,” Girardi said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk about what we’re going to do. It would be pretty hard to put him in the lineup tomorrow.”
• For anyone thinking a trade is in the works because Ramon Flores and Austin Romine were pulled from tonight’s Triple-A game, Brian Cashman said Romine came out because of a thumb issue that was bothering him even before the All-Star break, and Flores was pulled because he was hit by a pitch, but Cashman wasn’t sure how serious it was.
• By the way, Aaron Judge played center field again in that Triple-A game.
• Speaking of minor league guys, I was told tonight that Slade Heathcott is close to playing in rehab games. Mason Williams said he spent all of the All-Star break in New York getting treatment on his shoulder. He’s still a long way from playing in games.
• Tanaka retired seven of his last eight batters after the second Seager home run. “The at-bats against Seager, they were just bad pitches that I threw and he got the most out of it,” Tanaka said. “But other than that, I felt pretty good out there. Pitches were coming out of my hand pretty good, and I was able to pitch the way I wanted to. … I think a lot of the offspeed (pitches) were going from strike to ball, and they were swinging at them, so I think they were pretty good. I want to try to replicate that in my next outing as well.”
• Because he’s a solid evaluator, here’s Rodriguez on Tanaka: “I think he’s just been more consistent lately. His fastball command’s better. I thought his splitfinger got better as the night went on. I think he’s doing a better job of damage control. And for us, especially at home, it’s such a weapon having Betances and Miller at the back of the bullpen, because we know in a tight game like today, one run may be the difference, and it was today.”
• Why pull Rob Refsnyder against a right-handed reliever late in the game? In a tight game, Girardi was trying for a Yankee Stadium home run. He also was pretty sure the Mariners were unprepared for a pinch hitter, but Seattle stalled long enough to get Vidal Nuno ready for a left-on-left at-bat against Garrett Jones. “I was trying to pick up a quick run with Garrett,” Girardi said. “I knew that Nuno wasn’t ready, but by the time they threw over twice and went to the mound and stood there, they got him ready.”
• Even though Refsnyder went hitless, Girardi seemed impressed again. He left Refsnyder in to play defense in a one-run game in the eighth. “He looked pretty relaxed to me,” Girardi said. “Some tough plays. Some really tough plays tonight, and he made them all. Between hops. Slow rollers. Go to your left. Turn a double play, try to turn a double play. There really wasn’t an easy play for him tonight.”
• Refsnyder on his first roll call: “It was pretty cool. You hear about it and stuff like that. Obviously it was the furthest thing from my mind today, but it was nice. It was nice to hear my last name pronounced correctly. It’s rare.”
• Young just keeps crushing lefties, bringing exactly the kind of right-handed balance the Yankees had in mind when they re-signed him. “I’m happy I’m just able to get the opportunity, that’s the main thing,” Young said. “To be able to get consistent at bats, have the opportunity to get out there, try to find a streak to get going,, and if you slow down, still get the opportunity to go out there and find my way out of it. Consistent at-bats has always been the biggest want for me, as a player, and Joe’s given me a lot of opportunities, so I’m grateful for that.”
• Dellin Betances has struck out multiple batters in each of his past eight appearances, matching his eight-game streak from earlier this season. … Andrew Miller is a perfect 19-for-19 in save opportunities, extending his franchise record for consecutive saves converted to start a Yankees tenure. … The Yankees have homered in 33 of 42 home games this season.
• Let’s give the final word to Tanaka, talking about his first seasons playing alongside A-Rod: “I think he knows really how to hit the ball. It seems like once the ball comes off his bat, it just kind of flies. Being in the outfield shagging before games, you can see how well he gets to that ball and lets that ball fly out, so it’s pretty impressive.”
Associated Press photos
This was all pretty predictable. Another start when CC Sabathia wasn’t particularly good. Another postgame clubhouse when both Sabathia and Joe Girardi talked about seeing some positives in the outing. And finally the inevitable news that Adam Warren — and not Sabathia — will move into the Yankees’ bullpen.
“I thought (Sabathia) threw the ball pretty well tonight,” Girardi said. “I know it comes up as four runs in 7.1 innings, but I thought he threw the ball better tonight than he has recently.”
Although Girardi said pregame that the Yankees would stay on rotation, leaving Warren in line to start Wednesday’s series finale, Warren told The Daily News that he’s being moved into the bullpen. The move gives the Yankees what should be the right-handed reliever they’ve been looking for. It also takes care of some workload concerns for Warren, who’s already thrown more innings than in either of the past two seasons.
“Of course (the numbers are frustrating),” Sabathia said. “Not the ERA, but the fact that we’re not winning the games that I start. I just want to keep us in the game and try to get us some wins.”
We’ve certainly seen worse outings than this from Yankees’ pitchers this season, but with Sabathia, this four-run start continued a trend of games in which he’s been prone to costly mistakes at bad moments. Often it’s one big inning getting away from him. Tonight it was a few crucial pitches on a pair of home runs and on three two-out RBIs.
“I made some good pitches; I made some bad pitches,” Sabathia said. “It’s just part of it. But I’m battling and I feel like I’m getting better. … Just mixing fastballs in, two-seamer was pretty good tonight. Just got caught there with a couple cutters, and gave up two homers.”
Those were home runs No. 18 and 19 against Sabathia this season. He’s on pace to blow past his career-high for home runs allowed in a season.
“When he makes a mistake, they’re squaring it up,” Girardi said. “We’ve talked about how his command is really important for him. When he makes a mistake — it looked like he missed on the second home run, he was trying to go in and it was up and away — when you miss, you’re going to get hit.”
Sabathia’s been hit plenty this season, but he’ll start again when his turn comes around next week. Warren will be available in relief.
• Watching this game with no connection to either team, I assume Mike Trout would have been the star of the show. Solo home run plus three running catches to take away extra-base hits. He twice robbed Chris Young, who smoked the ball twice and still came away with an 0-for-4. “You execute, do what you’re trying to do at the plate, but it’s a crazy game we play,” Young said. “Things like that happen. … Both of them (looked like hits), then you remember Trout is out there. He’s been known to make quite a few WebGems, and he made some good plays tonight. So you tip your cap to him.”
• Instead of literally tipping his cap, Young kind of waved his hand in a mock dismissive manner after the second Trout catch. “Just having a little fun,” Young said. “From a fellow outfielder, you can understand that’s what he’s supposed to do out there. He’s a great player, so just having a little fun.”
• The home run was Trout’s 20th of the season. He is now one of six American League players to ever have four 20-plus homer seasons before their age-24 season. The others: Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. “He was really the difference in the game,” Girardi said. “You can talk about, he’s responsible for about four or five runs in this game, taking three away from us, maybe four, and providing one himself. He was the real difference in the game.”
• This is also Trout’s second season with at least 20 homers before the All-Star break. The only other players to pull that off are Albert Pujols, Jose Canseco and Eddie Matthews.
• The last Trout catch robbed Chase Headley of possible extra bases. Headley seems to be hitting into a lot of that stuff lately. “Chase Headley I think has it worse than anybody this month,” Young said. “He’s been swinging the bat probably better than I’ve ever seen him swing the bat, and the numbers don’t always line up with what we consider success at the plate. It’s just a crazy game.”
• The Yankees got their one run on an Alex Rodriguez RBI single, but they ultimately went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Trout caused a lot of that, but still, one hit with 10 RISP opportunities is a problem. “(Trout)’s a difference maker out there it seems like every night,” Brett Gardner said. “He made some great plays out there obviously, swings the bat really well, but at the end of the day we just didn’t get enough runs.”
• Gardner actually went 3-for-5 with two doubles to continue his incredible hot streak — he’s hitting .511 in his past 10 games — but he was also a part of the RISP failure, flying to left in a key at-bat in the seventh. “He’s played extremely well,” Girardi said. “That’s why we locked him up, because we knew he was a really good player. He’s living up to everything.”
• Could be that Gardner’s make a case for the All-Star Game. He’s now tied with Yoenis Cespedes for first among A.L. outfielders with 25 multi-hit games.
• Sabathia only walked one guy and struck out five. Of his 95 pitches, 61 went for strikes, and he’s tied for third in the Majors with five road starts of at least seven innings pitched. He got deep into this game, but he left the Yankees in a hole.
• Angels starter C.J. Wilson cut his ERA to 3.78. “I think the defense behind him was outstanding,” Girardi said. “Maybe in our ballpark some of those balls are home runs. Headley might have two, Chris Young might have two. That’s probably the difference.”
• Final word goes to Young: “(Wilson) pitched well. He pitched well and the Angels played amazing defense. I think when you mix those things together, it makes for a good game. That’s not to say we didn’t swing the bats well. It think we swung the bats well, executed what we were trying to do, but pitching and defense wins games, and their defense did a great job tonight.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees are home again. They won’t be for long long — just four games before they’re right back on the road for another long trip — but they’re home with a record good enough for first place in the American League East. For the most part, the Yankees are playing well. Just last weekend they won a series at Fenway, but they’re also coming off a series loss in Toronto where there were plenty of reminders that this is a team with flaws and concerns. Here are five of them:
The problem: He was a staff ace for many years, but Sabathia’s now 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA. The Yankees haven’t given him much run support, and some outings have been perfectly solid and winable, but six starts means he’s roughly a fifth of the way into his season and the numbers aren’t pretty. Is he going to get much better than this?
The circumstances: With one more year plus a vesting option left on his contract, Sabathia isn’t a player easily dismissed. He’s also an unquestioned leader in the clubhouse, where players and coaches alike seem to believe him and support him even through his struggles.
The alternative: After another strong start yesterday, Bryan Mitchell now has a 2.59 ERA through six starts in Triple-A. He’s the most immediate rotation alternative should the Yankees decide to insert someone else, but Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova are progressing from their injuries and Masahiro Tanaka could be back around the end of this month.
The problem: Although he’s fourth on the team in home runs, Drew still has just 13 hits and a batting average far closer to .150 than .200. And those numbers aren’t simply a one-month problem. Drew basically hit like this — but with less power — through almost all of last season.
The circumstances: Signed to a buy-low, one-year contract, Drew seems to be the Yankees best defensive second base option, and until Brendan Ryan is healthy, he’s their only proven backup shortstop. For the time being, the question with Drew isn’t so much whether he should stay on the roster, it’s whether he should stay in the starting lineup.
The alternative: Yesterday the Yankees activated Jose Pirela, and Pirela immediately delivered two hits including a hustle double. While scouts don’t exactly love his glove — and he’s never been a huge prospect — Pirela does seem to have some offensive potential and could hit his way into regular at-bats.
The problem: Maybe it’s because he’s hardly played, but the bottom line is that Jones has hit just .152/.176/.242 which is good for the lowest OPS on the roster by a large margin. His expected backup role has been hardly necessary with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez playing well.
The circumstances: Even if the Yankees found someone to put up better numbers, would that player get more at-bats than Jones is getting right now? He’s in the final year of his contract and the power potential exists. Is it worth putting a young player into such a limited role?
The alternative: Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores are playing well and hit from the left side, but Kyle Roller (.278/.414/.481 in Triple-A) stands out as a Jones-type who could occasionally DH and maybe play some limited first base when either Rodriguez or Teixiera needs a day off. At this point, adding a player who can handle the outfield seems unnecessary with both Pirela and Chris Young on the roster.
The problem: Even with a couple of two-hit games in Boston, Beltran is still hitting just .195/.237/.310 with 22 strikeouts. It feels like a continuation of last year’s brutal second half and a spring training that wasn’t exactly encouraging.
The circumstances: As recently as 2013, Beltran was still a very good hitter. Even in April of 2014 he hit for power before the elbow issue that eventually required surgery. He has this year and one more on his contract, so moving on isn’t as easy as it was with Alfonso Soriano last season.
The alternatives: In the short term, the Yankees have Young putting up good numbers, especially against lefties. The Yankees could basically push Beltran into a platoon with all right field starts against lefties going to Young. They could also consider either Heathcott or Flores as young options from the left side.
The problem: In a bullpen full of guys with terrific numbers, Carpenter a 5.23 ERA that’s the second-worst on the team behind Sabathia. Carpenter’s pitched 11 times this season, rarely in high-leverage situations, and he’s twice allowed three earned runs.
The circumstances: Really, Carpenter hasn’t been all that bad, and I’m including him here only because he’s the guy with numbers that don’t look great in the pen. Other than those two rough outings, he’s been good. The Yankees, though, have a lot of good young relievers in Triple-A, and they have three starting pitchers looking to come off the disabled list. Something’s going to have to give eventually.
The alternatives: Despite the high ERA, right now it’s pretty hard to imagine Carpenter’s job is remotely on the line at the moment. Girardi hasn’t trusted him in big spots, though, and last year’s top draft pick Jacob Lindgren just made back-to-back appearances the past two days (so did Nick Rumbelow), and Jose Ramirez went back-to-back a week ago. Could be that the Yankees are preparing those young guys for a big league role in the not-so-distant future.
Associated Press photo
Hey look, it’s a picture of the Yankees two best hitters!
One was suspended last season. The other was released last season. While there’s been plenty of attention on Alex Rodriguez, Chris Young has quietly led the Yankees in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage while seeming to earn himself more and more playing time.
“If you’re finding a way to help the team, normally you’ll find a way into the lineup,” Young said. “I said that in spring training. Wherever I’m at, if I’m bouncing around the outfield, it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s about trying to be productive and trying to get to the playoffs.”
The Yankees have seen quite a few lefties this season, which has opened some natural playing time for Young, but because Carlos Beltran was sick for a few days, and because Brett Gardner had that bruised wrist, Young has played a lot for a fourth outfielder. He’s made the most of it by crushing lefties (.500/.625/1.250 vLHP) and hitting for power against righties (.250/.286/.600 vRHP). He played ahead of Beltran against a lefty last night, and tonight he’s in there ahead of Gardner.
“Swinging so well, it’s hard to keep him out of the lineup,” Girardi said. “He’s going to play (against lefties). We need to find ways to get him in the lineup, and that’s what I’ve been doing. … I don’t know how much we’ll (play him against righties), but if a guy needs a day off, I’m not going to hesitate to put him in.”
Young’s primary responsibility is to hit lefties. That’s the job he was hired to do. But he also provides some outfield insurance as a guy who’s been a legitimate everyday guy in the past. At 31 years old, he’s not exactly an old player with no chance of being productive again. So far he’s thrived with inconsistent playing time this season.
“If I’m not playing, (I) make sure I go in the cage and try to keep my eye right, just try to stay ready,” Young said. “Even the games I don’t start, there’s a good chance I’m going to come into that game. That helps, as well. I think you always stay on your toes, never get too relaxed because you know that even if you’re off that day, you still have a good chance of going in.”
Released by the Mets last season, Young had a sudden resurgence with a terrific month of September with the Yankees. He hit .282/.354/.521 that month, and when opportunity for more playing time presented itself, Young took advantage and became a regular down the stretch.
A little more than two weeks into this season, it seems he’s trying to do the same thing all over again. Hard to keep his bat out of the lineup at this point, no matter who’s on the mound.
“It’s important to have positive people around you,” Young said. “For the fan base to take you in and give you a fair shot. They’ve shown me nothing but love. My teammates have shown me nothing but love. When you’re in a positive environment, positive results aren’t automatic, but they’re definitely a lot more reachable, I believe.”
• Temperature is supposed to get into the mid-to-low 30s tonight. It’s legitimately cold here in Detroit, and there have been snow flurries off and on throughout the day, including during Girardi’s pregame media session in the dugout. “I think you worry probably most about the grip on the baseball,” Girardi said. “The ball’s going to be slick tonight just because of the weather. It’s going to be difficult.”
• A slick ball isn’t great news for a starting pitcher like Adam Warren who leans on a four-pitch mix and really counts on his offspeed stuff, but that’s the way it goes. “(Nathan Eovaldi) seemed to find it last night so hopefully Adam can, too,” Girardi said. “You just have to be able to locate tonight. It might take you a few innings to find all your stuff, but keep searching.”
• Still planning to have Masahiro Tanaka pitch tomorrow on normal rest. It will be the first time this season he’s pitched with four days rest. “I thought he put it all together his last outing,” Girardi said. “He had all his pitches, so I feel good when he takes the mound.”
• For the third day in a row, the Yankees have not been able to take batting practice on the field because of the tarp. The Tigers have been in the same boat, but if you’re wondering why lineups have been posted to Twitter a little later than usual, it’s because the clubhouse has opened later without batting practice. The tarp is still on the field as I type this, but the game is expected to start on time.
• There’s a chance Alex Rodriguez will get the day off tomorrow. The Yankees are facing a right-handed starter and it’s a day game after a night game. Girardi said the decision will depend on how Rodriguez is feeling after tonight’s game. It sounded as if Girardi were leaning toward giving Rodriguez a day, but that’s just a hunch. Wouldn’t be especially surprised either way.
• As you’re probably well aware, Rodriguez is two home runs away from tying Willie Mays on the all-time list. Would be interesting to see him get one these next two days and go into the home stand one away. “This is a pretty big ballpark,” Girardi said. “He’s hit some balls pretty good here, but this ballpark plays big, so it’s hard to judge. … You’ve just got to relax and just go and be himself and not worry about it. Hopefully he’ll be able to do that. It’s easy to say it.”
• Girardi on Bernie Williams, who will (finally) officially retire on Friday: “Switch hitter in the middle of your lineup that had power from both sides, played excellent defense, ran the bases. He was a big part of our lineup. It was a time that you could put him in between O’Neill and Martinez and really broke it up. If you wanted to bring in the lefty, there was a good chance you were going to pay if you brought him in to face O’Neill. And Bernie just found ways to get big hits, found ways to get the job done. He was a great teammate. Everyone loved him. He sat in the corner a lot and played his music, and we all enjoyed listening to it. Just a great teammate.”
Associated Press photos
This time the tweak was a small one, just a minor change to keep his hand a little closer to his body as he begins his delivery. That’s what Nathan Eovaldi worked on leading into this start. Nothing overwhelming, just relatively easy fix, he said, to make his mechanics a little easier to repeat.
It wasn’t the kind of thing that single-handedly accounts for one of the best starts of Eovaldi’s career against one of the best lineups in the American League. He’s been building toward this for a while.
“That lets you know what his ceiling is,” Chris Young said. “If you can do that against the Tigers, you can pretty much do it against anybody.”
When the Yankees traded for Eovaldi this offseason, they talked about his potential to get better. He’d been a solid middle-of-the-rotation type in Miami, but his huge fastball while approaching just his 25th birthday suggested Eovaldi could be even better. In spring training he went to work on his offspeed pitches, tried to improve a relatively new splitter and worked on using his fastball up in the zone. He was good in his exhibition starts.
As the season started, Eovaldi’s his first two starts this season were solid. They were perfectly winable. But it wasn’t until tonight that Eovaldi actually got his first Yankees win by striking out four, walking one and allowing just one run while pitching into the eighth inning. On the road. Facing this lineup. Against a team that won 11 of its first 13 games this season.
“I was really pleased,” Eovaldi said. “It’s a great lineup. My slider, I had good depth to it and was able to keep the ball on the ground for the most part, and make pitches when I needed to. … It could be any team, whoever’s hot really, and when you can perform and give your team a good chance to win, that’s big.”
Best start of his career? Eovaldi said he’s had others that were good. Said he pitched well against the Braves last year. He’s pitched through the eighth inning a few times. This might not be the best of the best, but it’s an indication of what the Yankees would like to see. It’s a hint of what Eovaldi’s capable of doing.
“He’s got good stuff, No. 1,” manager Joe Girardi said. “No. 2, he’s young. This is not a guy that’s 29, 30, that’s been pitching a long time in the big leagues. It takes starting pitchers time to develop, and they learn a lot about themselves, and they add pitches. He does a lot of things right. You think about the fielding tonight, a big double play there. He holds runners. And with the quality stuff he has, I think he has a chance to be really successful.”
• Chris Young went 3-for-3, walked twice, hit his fourth home run and doubled just for good measure. He leads the Yankees in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. “It’s too early for me to start thinking about the season (as a whole), start thinking about stuff like that,” Young said. “It’s more just about having consistent at-bats, trying to come through when my card is pulled. I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible.”
• With David Price starting tomorrow, Girardi said he will definitely have Young back in the lineup for Game 3 of this series. At this point, it would be hard to bench him even against a right-hander. He’s been outstanding.
• Young is in a four-way tie for the team lead in home runs with Stephen Drew, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Like Young, Drew also hit his fourth homer tonight. Half of Drew’s hits have been homers. He’s hitting just .190, but he has the fourth-most RBI on the team.
• Three double plays last night. Four of them tonight. “The double plays have been really helpful, keeping them from scoring a ton of runs,” Girardi said. “We know how explosive they are. We’ve got some real timely ones.”
• Interesting that Drew was at second for last night’s double plays and at short for tonight’s (he was involved in three of them tonight). “He seems to be doing it pretty well, but it’s got to be a little different bouncing back and forth a little bit,” Girardi said. “But with the injury to Brendan, we’ve been kind of forced to do this.”
• Eovaldi is still throwing his splitter, he just hasn’t used it very much lately. He said he’s been getting too much side-to-side movement on it and not the good, downward break that he wants. Eovaldi threw two splits tonight. He got Miguel Cabrera to fly out with it in the first inning and Victor Martinez fouled one off later in the game.
• Andrew Miller is five-for-five in save opportunities, but this one got a little dangerous with the bases loaded in the ninth. Miller walked the first two batters he faced, but it actually looked like he struck out each one. “I wasn’t missing by much,” Miller said. “I felt really good believe it not, despite the conditions. That’s probably the best the ball’s come out all year, and I think sometimes you just get a little too amped up. I didn’t feel I was missing my much.”
• First batter Miller faced was Nick Castellanos, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the building except first-base umpire Gerry Davis through Castellanos swung on a 1-2 fastball, but it was ruled a check swing. Next batter was Rajai Davis, and Brian McCann got crossed up on a 3-2 pitch that also looked pretty close to a strike, but it was called a ball to walk in a run. “If I don’t cross him up, I’m pretty sure that pitch that hits McCann in the knee is a strike,” Miller said. “I think everything that went wrong is pretty easily adjusted for the next time.”
• If you couldn’t tell, on that pitch that hit McCann, Miller thought the call was for a fastball, but McCann was expecting a slider. Can’t imagine 95 mph off the knee feels good, but McCann seemed fine postgame.
• Really nice eighth inning for Dellin Betances. MLB.com had his fastball up to 96 mph, which is a lot better than we were seeing in spring training. Girardi said that, after the insurance run in the top of the ninth, he never considered sending Betances out to start the bottom of the ninth.
• Final word to Girardi: “They’re tough. We’ve said it all along, they’ve got a very good lineup. But I thought our pitchers did a really great job tonight. I thought Evo was excellent. Used all his pitches. He has a half-an-hour inning where he sits down, comes out in the bottom of the seventh and I think it’s the hardest pitch he threw all night, to lead off that inning. I give him a lot of credit tonight because he sat a long time.”
Associated Press photos
Just a few days ago, Joe Girardi was talking about not making too much of a few at-bats. He was determined to give his veteran hitters time to right the ship. There would be no significant changes based on strong starts or slow starts.
In the past two days, though, we’ve seen some lineup tweaks involving Carlos Beltran. Last night, Beltran returned from illness to find himself dropped to fifth in the order so that Alex Rodriguez could remain in the No. 3 spot. Today, Beltran is on the bench so that red-hot Chris Young can get another start against a lefty (and so that two left-handed hitting outfielders can stay in the lineup).
Girardi made it clear that Beltran will play again tomorrow, but today he basically had a choice of playing Young ahead of Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, and he chose to sit the switch-hitter Beltran.
“Just the way Chris has been playing and Gardy and Ells, too,” Girardi said. “Carlos will be back in there tomorrow. Just the way I went with it today.”
Two things at play here: Rodriguez and Young have basically been must-play guys, especially against left-handed pitchers, and Beltran has struggled to a .171/.222/.268 start to the season. Girardi has expressed confidence that Beltran will turn it around — and sitting him today is certainly not an indication that Beltran’s going to be a regular bench player going forward — but at this point, Ellsbury, Gardner and Young have been the Yankees three best outfielders.
Young, in particular, has been a potent source of power, kind of building on his strong September of a year ago.
“It’s been great,” Young said. “I love it here. This team received me well. The clubhouse is amazing. The coaching staff is amazing. I’ve gotten an opportunity here, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Girardi made a point of saying this isn’t a right-field platoon in which Beltran will always sit against lefties, but at this point, Young’s made it awfully hard to keep him out of the lineup.
“I think that’s what he’s done,” Girardi said. “He’s pushed himself into that position, and that’s why I chose to go the way I did today.”
A few quick updates from extended spring training:
• Jose Pirela went 1-for-3 while playing third base in an extended spring game yesterday. He was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat but stayed in the game. He will play seven innings at second base tomorrow.
• Ivan Nova threw two innings, 35 pitches, of live batting practice.
• Chris Capuano will throw two innings in an extended spring game tomorrow.
• Brendan Ryan took ground balls and went through batting practice.
• The Yankees defense was awful when the season started, but lately it’s been a definite strength. “I just think they were too good not to turn around,” Girardi said. “I just think what we saw is not something we ever expected and just kind of got off to a slow start defensively. It was hard to put your finger on it.”
• Meanwhile, the Yankees offense has been extremely home run heavy. They’ve hit a lot of homers, but they don’t have a single player batting .300 and only three everyday guys have an on-base percentage higher than .317. “It is kind of strange,” Girardi said. “We’ve produced a lot of our runs by the home run, and we knew we had power in our lineup. I don’t think it will always be like that. We scored five in Tampa the other day without hitting a home run. I’m not so sure we’ve done that too often this year. That’s the kind of club we are. We have some speed at the top obviously, but you look at 3 through 7, 3 through 8, they have the ability to hit a lot of home runs.”
• The Yankees face another lefty tomorrow (not just any lefty, David Price). Girardi said he expects Didi Gregorius to play that game (presumably with Stephen Drew on the bench), and he expects Beltran back in the lineup with either Gardner or Ellsbury on the bench.
• Chasen Shreve is back, but he’s back against a lineup that has a bunch of right-handed hitters. Essentially, it sounds like he’ll be the long man these next three days, leaving Esmil Rogers available for shorter outings in right-on-right situations. “The one thing about Chasen is he gives you multiple innings more than a Branden (Pinder) does,” Girardi said. “Against a lineup that has a lot of right-handers, it allows you to use Esmil a little bit differently.”
• Talked to Shreve for a little bit this afternoon. He said that the morning after the 19-inning game — when Shreve pitched 3.1 scoreless innings — Andrew Miller actually said something to him about the Yankees definitely needing to call up a fresh reliever for the next game. Shreve said he completely agreed, but it never once occurred to him that he’d be the one sent down. After he was told, Shreve said, he instantly realized that he was the most logical option. Funny, it takes most players a little bit of time before they’re able to put those sort of pieces together. Shreve was smiling about it today. Totally gets why it happened, but he’s obviously happy to be back.
• Girardi on last night’s anti-media rant by Reds manager Bryan Price: “We live in a day that strategy is very important to us, and people (in the media) are so good at what they do now that it’s hard to keep something like (not having a player) under wraps. For me, I try to understand that. And I understand that the media business is very competitive, but we don’t like to give out our strategy. That’s part of it. I’m sure if he had a chance to do it over again, he might have did it a little different. Sometimes we get upset and we say things that we wish we had said a little bit differently.”
Associated Press photos
Masahiro Tanaka’s first big league complete game shutout came on May 14 of last season. It was at Citi Field, and Chris Young was one of Tanaka’s eight strikeouts that day.
“You never know what you’re going to get when you’re at the plate,” Young explained tonight. “There’s really no way to have a legit approach against him. You can get anything in any count, and that makes him really tough.”
Manager Joe Girardi’s most common critique through Tanaka’s first two starts this season was that Tanaka had yet to pitch a game with all of his weapons. Couldn’t locate his fastball quite right. Didn’t quite have his breaking balls working. It’s the total package that makes Tanaka so effective, and he had not shown his full arsenal until tonight.
Seven innings. Two hits. No walks. Eight strikeouts. All on just 85 pitches, a start that surely would have gone longer had the Yankees not spent so much time scoring runs in the seventh that Tanaka had to throw to stay loose on the bench.
“I thought he had all his pitches tonight, which was the big difference,” Girardi said. “He located his fastball. He elevated it as well. He used his curveball, his slider and his split really effectively, and that’s the difference. When you have all your weapons you usually are going to go deeper into the game.”
Tanaka cruised tonight. At one point he struck out seven of 10 batters. He retired 15 in a row. He clearly had enough to go at least eight innings tonight, maybe even the full nine if the Yankees wanted to push his pitch count above 100. His fastball, according to the stadium gun, regularly hit 92 mph and topped out at 94. He got swings and misses with his split, but seemed just as capable of finishing off at-bats with his slider.
“He was better,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “The command of the fastball was better. I thought he had a better downhill plane on it, and threw some fastballs down and away to the spot to right handers very well. That means that he’s getting through pitches pretty well. I think it’s a real good step in the right direction.”
Brian McCann singled out Tanaka’s slider for having better tilt. Tanaka himself said he was most pleased with his fastball, and said the difference came down to better mechanics.
“He did whatever he wanted tonight with the baseball,” McCann said. “He (had) sink and cut. He put his curveball in there for a strike whenever he wanted to. … I feel like this is what he’s been doing since he got over here. I mean, I really do. There’s no questions in here about it. The guys that are in this clubhouse, that watch him prepare on a daily basis, that see him go about his business, (all believe) he’s ready to go.”
That’s what the Yankees have been saying since the end of spring training. But saying it is one thing. Seeing it is another.
Tonight they saw it.
“I think it’s really important for him to see when I have my stuff, I’m going to pitch extremely well,” Girardi said. “And that’s what he did tonight. … In life, you need to have some success or you get frustrated with yourself. I hadn’t noticed any (lack of confidence). His confidence has been fine. He’s been the same person to me, but we all want to have success.”
• Rothschild said the Yankees still haven’t decided whether Tanaka will take his next turn on five days or six days rest. Girardi said the Yankees definitely plan to have Tanaka pitch on five days rest at some point, they just aren’t sure whether it will happen this turn. “We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow,” Rothschild said. “And then we have to decide to go the fifth day or the sixth day.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira were each pulled from the game in the late innings, but both were strictly because the game was so lopsided and it was worth getting them off their feet a little earlier. No new injuries, Girardi said.
• Huge game for McCann who became the first Yankees player to have a triple this season. He’s currently the team leader in that category. I know because McCann asked a bunch of writers to look it up and make sure no other Yankee had a triple so far. Kept bragging — as a joke — about his blinding speed. McCann has four triples in his career. “When you’ve got speed, you don’t have stop signs,” he said.
• McCann is now 8-for-13 with two home runs, a double, a triple and six RBI in his career against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. The rest of the Yankees had two singles against Odorizzi tonight. McCann went 3-for-3 against him. “With some people, the numbers stack up,” McCann said. “Sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight I was able to get some pitches up in the zone and not miss it.”
• As a result of his big night, McCann’s batting average jumped from .179 to .250. “I’ve been feeling good at the plate since Opening Day,” he said. “It’s early in the season. A couple of hits fall here and there and it’s a different story. I’ve been feeling good at the plate.”
• Aside from McCann’s triple, the other big hit of the night was Chris Young’s grand slam off Grant Balfour. A grand slam is great,” Young said. “But it’s not what’s in your mind when you’re at the plate, especially the way my at-bat started tonight. I had a couple of bad swings on sliders in the dirt, so I was just trying to grind, battle, try to work a walk, a base hit. He happened to leave one up on me.”
• Young’s was the Yankees’ second grand slam of the season following Stephen Drew’s, which came earlier in the week in Baltimore. It was Young’s third career grand slam. Young, Drew and Mark Teixeira are now tied for the second-most home runs on the team with three apiece.
• After the game, the Rays designated Balfour for assignment. Rough night.
• Brett Gardner made his first start since being hit by a pitch on Monday. He reached base three times and stole a base twice. He has three stolen bases this season, all in the past two days. This was Gardner’s first multi-steal game since May 30 of last year.
• Branden Pinder struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth for his first career strikeout. Pinder said yesterday that he had a lot of family flying to Tampa for this series, so I assume that explains the people going nuts in the stands after that strikeout. It was a rough inning from there — he walked two and had the bases loaded before finally ending it — but Pinder got through it without the Yankees having to bring in Chris Martin, who was getting loose.
• By the way, Pinder was called for a balk in the ninth inning. I didn’t see anything, and Girardi said he had no idea what happened to cause the balk call. “We’re still trying to figure it out,” Girardi said.
• Final word goes to Young: “The biggest thing for all of us today collectively, we were able to make the adjustment off chasing too many pitches and kind of take our walks and put ourselves in a position to have a big inning. I think the biggest thing for us was the walks. Granted, Mac had the big hit, I had a hit as well in a big situation, but the walks kind of put you in that situation. Sooner or later, it’ll catch up to you.”
Associated Press photos
Thought we were finished talking about Masahiro Tanaka’s velocity, health and performance two days after his disappointing Opening Day start? You must be new.
In today’s Daily News, John Harper wrote that the Yankees believe something has been lost in translation in Tanaka’s public comments about his velocity and approach. The widespread perception has been that Tanaka is backing away from velocity because of concerns about his elbow, but the Yankees say that’s not the case, at least not based on their internal discussions with their young ace. Harper wrote that the team planned a meeting with Tanaka to make sure there’s a mutual understanding.
So the decision to throw more sinkers and fewer four-seamers is not because of the elbow?
“From my conversations with him, it’s a strategic thing,” Girardi said. “He knows that his four-seamer got hit some last year, and that really comes down to location. I think the important thing for him is that, whichever one he’s locating better, it’s the one he uses that day for the most part. He is a guy that gets 90 percent of his outs on sliders and splits. The fastball is to kind of setup the slider and the split. He needs to locate. I mean, he got in bad counts the other day. He didn’t really pitch Toronto much different than he did the last time he beat them in June, but he made mistakes and that was the difference.”
The numbers support the idea that Tanaka’s four-seamer was perhaps his worst pitch last season, so there is a non-health motivation in throwing fewer four-seamers. But, of course, given the situation — a slightly torn elbow ligament for such a high-end young pitcher — everything is going to be examined over and over again. Any change is hard to dismiss under the circumstances. From Harper’s story:
Yankee people also say the panic over Tanaka’s velocity is overblown, that his fastball against the Blue Jays, both two-seam and four-seam, were within one mile per hour of the way he pitched last year.
Likewise they say the percentage of fastballs he threw — 26 of 82 pitches, if you count the two-seam sinkers and the four-seamers — wasn’t dramatically different from 2014 either.
“I see the way he’s throwing his split,” Girardi said this afternoon. “I see him playing long toss. I just don’t think, if he was hurt, he could do the things that he’s doing. But I think that’s always going to be in the back of everyone’s mind just because that’s the way it is.”
• Alex Rodriguez has good career numbers against Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey, but Girardi said he didn’t want to start moving players up and down the lineup after one game. “I’m not going to start changing the lineup already,” he said. “We’re only one day in. A lot of it, I think sometimes, is something that you look over. Sometimes you make some changes, sometimes you don’t, based upon the personnel that’s in there at the time. I thought we could go with the same lineup two days in a row, it’s something a little bit different than what we’ve done the past two years.”
• The lineup will change tomorrow, though. The Yankees face left-handed starters on Thursday and Friday, and Girardi said he plans to use both Chris Young and Gregorio Petit as everyday guys against lefties. They won’t necessary replace the same player each time, but they’ll play against lefties, giving the regulars a chance to sit. It’s a way to add some right-handed balance to this left-leaning lineup. “I would say I will probably do that, try to give guys a day off,” Girardi said. “Maybe one of the outfielders a day off against a lefty, and one of the infielders a day off against a lefty, yes.”
• Didi Gregorius is back in the lineup after being hit by pitch to the elbow late on Monday. “He said he’s fine,” Girardi said. “I’ll watch him take BP and let him go through BP, but he said he felt good so my expectation is that it won’t be an issue.”
• In his fourth season with the Yankees, but only his second year breaking camp with the team, Michael Pineda seems to be an even better pitcher than the Yankees expected when they got him. His health might be worse than expected, but his stuff is better. “He’s much different (than in 2012),” Girardi said. “The first Spring Training didn’t go so well. He ended up getting hurt, and he wasn’t where he needed to be physically. Now you look at him and the ball is coming out well. He’s a much different guy. … He had a pretty serious injury and he has bounced back. I think he grew up a lot through that. I think during that time too his mechanics improved dramatically. It really helped him.”
• Last time Pineda pitched on a cold night in April, he wound up ejected and suspended because of a massive glob of pine tar on his neck. Girardi actually laughed when asked about it today. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot of eyes on him tonight,” Girardi said. “I think he understands, yes. I hope.”
• As expected, there’s no set closer for tonight. “It’s the matchups (that will decide who pitches the ninth,” Girardi said. “It’s the order.”
Associated Press photos